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Rudge, Alice (2022) 'Cultivating "Care": Colonial Botany and the Moral Lives of Oil Palm at the Twentieth Century’s Turn.' Comparative Studies in Society and History, 64 (4). pp. 878-909.

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This paper draws on archival research to trace the techniques used by scientists and government officials involved with palm oil at the turn of the twentieth century. For them, mundane practices of “carefulness” were paramount as they worked on collecting, identifying, marketing, and improving the oil palm. But they also applied this so-called care to people: care of the oil palm was thought to presuppose care of the “native,” providing a correction for what were seen as “careless” local manners of cultivation. Colonial techniques of care thus sought to encompass both plants and peoples within contemporary liberal rhetorics of efficiency and moral improvement. This embodies how scientific and political care can interlink through their undersides of control, exploitation, and domination, which remain obscured by narratives of care themselves. Examining these links between commodity histories and scientific techniques is therefore essential for understanding environmental and social concerns regarding oil palm plantations today. An awareness of the afterlives of colonial discourses might encourage a more critical “care” in response to these issues today, challenging taken-for-granted notions of the benefits of corporate care.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Anthropology & Sociology
ISSN: 00104175
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2023 08:53
Funders: Leverhulme Trust

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